New York weighs new approach to high childcare costs

ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York may allow the parents of young children to defer a piece of their state income taxes to help cover the cost of child care.

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The novel proposal, introduced as legislation this past week in Albany, is intended to address an expense that challenges nearly every family budget but gets far less attention than saving for college or retirement.

"Child care, next to the mortgage, is the biggest expense we have," said Tom Devaney, a grant writer in the Long Island town of Mineola. He and his wife have a 3-year-old son and 6-month-old twin boys. "Anything that can bring down the cost -- even a little -- is going to help a lot of families."

Child care in New York costs more than $10,000 a year on average, rivaling the cost of housing as the largest financial burden on the parents of young children. And compared with other big expenses such as housing, health care or higher education, government does relatively little to help.

The proposal, from state Sen. Daniel Squadron, D-Brooklyn, would allow parents to defer up to $2,000 of their taxes per year to help defray the costs of child care. The taxes would still have to be paid once the child is of school age, but parents would have 10 years to pay the full amount, and no interest would be added.

There would be no income eligibility requirements under the proposal, which would cover traditional day care as well as in-home services such as nannies or baby sitters.

"I'm a parent myself, and we've experienced this. We hear about it from family and friends," said Squadron, who has two children, ages 4 and 2. "Child care is a necessity, and we need to find ways to help people spread out the cost."

The bill, which so far has no opposition, is one of several measures offered this year that attempt to help new parents. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Democrats in the Assembly and the Senate have offered different proposals to authorize up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to workers caring for a new child or a sick relative.

Child Care Aware, a Washington-based child care advocacy organization, ranks New York as one of the nation's most expensive states for child care, with the average annual cost between $10,000 and $14,000. That's more than the cost of a year's in-state tuition at a state college.

Already, the state subsidizes the cost of child care for 123,000 lower-income families, serving more than 200,000 children. And the federal government also offers a tax credit for child-care costs, mostly for those with low incomes.

But officials in New York say they're not aware of any state using tax deferrals to reduce the burden of paying for child care.

"A lot of parents are paying $200 per week for child care, so it can be a big expense," said Andrea Anthony, executive director of the New York City-based Day Care Council of New York. "It's an innovative way of helping parents."


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